Despite failing to get onto the field of play, Michail Antonio returned to the London Stadium having enjoyed his first England call-up and training with the national team for the first time. Under new boss Sam Allardyce, the former Nottingham Forest winger will be desperate to maintain his current form to earn his first cap with friendlies and World Cup qualifiers on the horizon as England try to recover from Euro 2016 failure by bouncing back, with Allardyce keen to add width.
Antonio certainly didn’t do his chances any harm with a superb attacking display against Watford, and was one of few positives for Slaven Bilic and co. as his side surrendered a 2-0 lead to lose 2-4 at home to the Hornets. With two headers notched, the second of which was from a beautiful rabona cross from Dimitri Payet, Antonio became the club’s top scorer since he made his Premier League debut last year with 12 strikes to his name.
Both finishes showed skill and anticipation and exactly why Big Sam thinks he can add something different to an England line-up lacking aerial ability in attack. The 26-year-old managed seven shots on goal in total, with three on target and two goals, and was the Hammers’ most potent attacking threat despite the less than impressive debut of new loan signing Simone Zaza alongside him in attack.
With six crosses delivered into the box and five take-ons up against a shakey looking Watford defence, the former Conference winger showed his best qualities with direct pace and strength causing problems up against Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas as he frequently switched flanks with Dimitri Payet causing confusion amongst the usually disciplined defence of Walter Mazzarri’s outfit who had conceded just one header so far this season prior to Antonio’s brace today.
That said, Antonio’s display was far from perfect, as he could easily have fingers pointed his way in an abysmal defensive display in the second half as his side collapsed to the Hornets. For Etienne Capoue’s strike, and Watford’s third, Antonio was slow to get back and it was his man who was left free on the left hand side to complete the turnaround and send the Irons to defeat in their new home for the first time in the Premier League.
For West Ham fans, Antonio was far from responsible for the shocking defending on display, and he will quickly be forgiven considering that his two goals put the side into a comfortable lead in the opening exchanges. Rapidly becoming a fan favourite and proving why he should be deployed further forward as a winger, rather than a makeshift full-back, Antonio has shown what he has capable of at Premier League level as his rise through the leagues becomes increasingly more impressive. If he can maintain this kind of form in the coming weeks and months, he looks set to top that rise off with a first cap in the next round of international fixtures in November.
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